Originally scheduled for May 13
The modern theory of criminal justice is a
relatively recent invention. Originally intended to provoke the
repentance of the criminal, or "penitence," (from which we get our
word penitentiary) we have since reduced our system to one of two
Reform. By various methods such as
on-the-job training or 12 step programs we hope to produce reform in
the individual prisoner. The idea is that the prisoner will leave
the prison and become a productive member of society. This has
proven to be expensive and not nearly as effective as we would
Warehousing. If we can't reform them,
we can at least keep them off the street for some length of time.
This seems to be a relatively obvious solution; however, keeping
people in prison costs money — and the taxpayers are not quite so
willing to pay for it.
As you can see, there seems to be no
universally accepted solution to the problem of crime and criminals.
But one thing we can claim as being superior to the ancient methods:
we prohibit "cruel and unusual" punishment. It's quite a contrast
with the methods in use in the time of Christ.
The ancient theory of punishment worked quite
Cruelty was not only useful but
welcome. It was made as public as possible, so as to provide a
deterrent effect upon others. The law-abiding citizen was encouraged
to see this as being simply a case of "just desserts."
The system also encouraged as much
public humiliation as possible. Should the criminals survive the
process, this was supposed to make it memorable both to the criminal
and those who might imitate him.
The death penalty was much more
common and much more widely applied. Prison, you see, was expensive.
Graves were cheap.
The crucifixion of Christ was carried out under
the ancient theory. He was physically beaten within an inch of his
life, being flogged by an instrument designed to produce long
bleeding gashes in the back. The procession to the place of
crucifixion was intended as humiliation. The striking point of this,
however, is not the cruelty of the punishment but the fact that he
did not deserve it. He took upon himself this cruelty on our behalf.
He did not have to come to this Earth; he did not have to suffer
crucifixion. He did this at the command of the Father, in obedience
to the Father's great love for us.
It is by his bleeding wounds that our sins are
healed. Remember this as you take communion today. This is not
simply a reminder to you, but a memorial to the suffering and death
of our Lord Jesus Christ. In view of the price he paid, it is
fitting and appropriate that we should examine ourselves before
partaking. Therefore, look inside yourself, see if there is anything
which needs repentance, and bring it to the Father for forgiveness.
In the elements of communion you can see the body and blood of the
Christ suffered for you. Do this in remembrance of him.